Kandersteg is a picturesque, traditional village with a long, long history in the midst of stunning Alpine scenery. It has maintained its relaxed and friendly character through centuries of hosting guests, first traders and for the past few centuries, tourists - for the last 100 years in winter as well as summer. It's location with a short easy transfer from Swiss capital Berne is an added bonus.
The village grew up at the northern end of the trade route from Italy over the Simplon Pass, which was busy for millenia. It was dangerous too and eventually the poor farmers of the area built the village church which still stands today from 1510 partly in order to give travellers a place to pray before and after making the Alpine crossing.
The church bell was cast in 1541 and is still used to ring in the New Year.
Tourism began some two centuries ago after a visiting doctor wrote of his experiences of the beauty of the area and the healthiness and good nature of the inhabitants. At that time in the late eighteenth century medical advice was actually against staying in the mountains and mountain air generally believed to be unhealthy. The doctor's review, along with improved access and facilities led to a growth in tourists.
In the summer of 1860, two Englishmen, a vicar and a doctor and an American arrived in Kandersteg and asked for a guide to take them to the top of the Blümlisalp (3663 m above sea level). The young Fritz Ogi was the only person with enough courage to take the job. He became the founder of a mountain guide dynasty.
The latter half of the twentieth century were boom years for Kandersteg bringing true stability and some prosperity to the locals for the first time. New hotels were built. Mark Twain stayed in the village for the night of August 23rd, 1878 and then hiked over the Gemmi Pass. His humorous but accurate account of his journey can be found in his book A Tramp Abroad. The guest book at mountain guest house and restaurant Schwarenbach half-way across the Gemmi Pass has inscriptions from many famous personalities such as Alexander Dumas, Picasso and Lenin.
Winter sports began more than a century ago, visitors initially attracted for the curling, but they have never really been the all encompassing attraction that they are at many other top ski centres. Kandersteg has far more to offer than many ski centres and a much greater proportion of its clientele visits, year round, for the hiking, fishing, flora and fauna or just the stunning scenery than is the ski resort norm.